Healthy diet and nutrition during pregnancy

Both the quality and quantity of the diet during pregnancy critically influence the health of the mother and her unborn child.  The most common nutritional concern of women during pregnancy is excessive weight gain.

They need to be encouraged to maintain a healthy diet and sufficient exercise throughout pregnancy. Inappropriate weight gain can place the newborn at greater risk for infection, illness, disabilities, and even death.

Women with eating disorders are often underweight at conception, increasing the risk of delivering a low birth-weight infant.

Some women experience pica (persistent eating of foods that have not nutrient value). Nonfood items most commonly craved and consumed by pregnant women with pica include ice or freezer frost, laundry starch or cornstarch.

Pica behavior may lessen the nutritional level of the mother and her fetus since the mother may not eat nutritious foods in sufficient quantity, which can lead to poor weight gain, low birth weight and intrauterine growth retardation.

Also, the substance that the woman is eating may have harmful effects to the maternal fetal unit. As part of preconception counseling, as well as good health practice during pregnancy and lactation, women should avoid alcohol, smoking, recreational or illegal drug use and take only those medications approved by her physician.

Women who drink 2 – 3 cups of coffee each day have a daily caffeine intake about 300 mg. Caffeine decreases the absorption of iron, which has a direct effect in the maternal fetal unit. During pregnancy, the caffeine has long been suspected of causing adverse effects in pregnant women because it increase heart rate, acts as a diuretic, and stimulate the central nervous system. Caffeine consumption during pregnancy may lead to caffeine withdrawal symptoms in new born.

Aspartame (found in some artificial sweeteners) contains the amino acid phenylalanine and should be avoided by pregnant women because high levels of phenylalanine can lead to impaired fetal brain development and result in mental retardation.  It also aggravates the stress response in the brain, making the women even more prone to nervousness. Women with a metabolic disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU) should avoid it.
Healthy diet and nutrition during pregnancy 

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